Camp Journaling: Part One — The Notes

So yesterday I spent some time working on my camping notes for journaling, since, ya know, I’m so far behind on all of it. I didn’t get all of them done just yet. I’ve got one and a half left. I would have had it all done if not for the fact I couldn’t get motivation to work with me yesterday. Maybe because I knew starting with today I am going to have a long ass weekend and a long ass week coming up in terms of work and hectic nature. I guess I just wanted to relax finally.

Anywho, since I spent some time working on that and I’ve been saying for a couple months now that one of these posts was going to be about how I journal these trips, I figured that would be a good enough topic for today.

(Partly because I’m drawing a blank on what else to write about as well. I haven’t gotten any other writing done yet. I need to though, because it’s Friday. And Friday means I have to have proof for a group I’m in to show I’ve been writing. So I need to write something. Soon. Today preferably…)

So, yes, journaling.

I’m not going to talk of actually writing the entry in my journal, I’m more so going to talk about how I do the notes today, and perhaps next Tuesday I’ll talk about how I write the entry from them. That sounds like a good idea. (I should have done this a Tuesday into Friday post instead then. Oh well.)

So how do I take notes for camping trips so that I can journal them?

Well, first I have this small hand held notebook that I can fit in my bag and I carry around with me so I can do these notes anywhere. The first thing I do before we even hit the road is write down the campground’s name and the dates of the trip. Then I leave a space for Time, as in how long it takes us to travel there.

After that I have little abbreviations listed: F, Act, and Atr. As well as the word Average to the side of them. These are what I use for rating the campground based on three categories that I, if you haven’t guessed, average out in the end for an overall score. My rating goes on a scale of one to five, five being great and one being poor.

F stands for Facilities. When I think facilities I think just about everything the campground has to offer. From the restrooms, to a playground, to a pool, camp store, everything. I don’t just look at what they have and how much they have though, I look at how well-kept it is also. Are the bathrooms and showers very clean? Is the miniature golf course falling apart or are the greens playable? Do they have much to do for activities that aren’t run down?

Act stands for Activities. Some campgrounds will have activities planned throughout the weekend so when you show up they’ll hand you a piece of paper with some title of “Hawaiian Weekend” or “Splash Zone Weekend” with a list of title related activities and times for them. A lot tend to be geared towards smaller kids, but some places do have ceramics or DJ’s or sometimes you’ll see a volleyball or kickball game listed depending on the campground. There may even be an adult swim at night at the pool, and bingo is quite common. Not all campgrounds have activities planned though, and they can be what makes or breaks a good weekend and place to go — along with the weather. So I look to see if they have activities, or if the facilities they have are enough for some activities.

Lastly, Atr stands for Attractions. Not everyone goes camping to see the sights around the place, some simply go for the weekend of relaxation around the campfire with a drink and a s’more, but others do like to go visit the sights. So for this I look at how many interesting places are around the campground, and are within an hours drive. Am I out in no man’s land at this campground? Or do I have lots to go see and do if the weather is crappy for a game of volleyball?

I normally save rating those three categories until I have spent the whole weekend there and I have written the rest of my notes. Now the rest of the notes are just small reminders of what I need to include when I write my entry.

I start by writing the route in which we traveled, and then add how long it took to my Time slot once we reach the campground to check in. These two things, along with the campground’s phone number and address even find themselves in a smaller notebook, sort of like an index of places we can go back to.

After we’re all settled in and we’ve gone out to dinner, I take a walk or bike ride around the campground seeing what they have to offer. I record everything from activity places and how run down they are, to the camp store and what it has to offer, to how nice the showers and bathrooms are and even if they want to charge you money for the showers. I list all that they offer with some details. I even get pictures of the facilities as this is more than just journaling.

Once I have those I start adding other little notes. How level the sites are, is it swampy or muddy if it rains that weekend? Are the owners friendly and helpful? Is the place on the expensive side or decently priced for a weekend? Do they have Wi-Fi and does it cost anything to use, not to mention how reliable is it? How’s the cell service? Is there shade from trees or are you baking in the sun? Are the sites cramped or spacious? Are the bugs a royally pain in the ass that weekend?

Like I said before, I go into detail about these places. While I am out getting the notes of what the campground has to offer to do I make sure to stop in the office and look for any brochures of nearby attractions, which I then collect and store away in a folder.

While we were out at dinner, I made sure to note the restaurants we passed by and recorded them as well, with rough times of travel to them. Whichever we chose to eat at I gave a few details about the food and price as well, labeling them as Eateries within my notebook.

Sometimes I get time to note the campground before we head out to dinner, it really all depends on what time we leave and arrive at the campground, and the weather. Although, it seems to wait till after mostly when tradition in our group is sit back and have a drink after the long drive and set up.

Once the trip is over and we return home, I ask family if they have any notes to add to mine about the place, then I take my handful of brochures and my computer and start Google mapping these places to see how far away they are and if they are any good to include in my entry. For each one I check, I write down approximate times under the attraction name and then give a brief description of what it is or has to offer. Is it a gift shop, a museum, a natural attraction, a water park or other amusement place, a fun center, shopping within a town? Whatever I find within reasonable distance I add.

I put the brochures away in another folder once I’ve finished, save for the brochure of the campground that I keep out for when I write the entry, then I am officially done with the notes for that campground!

Over the next few days I’ll upload my camping photos to Facebook within the albums I make for memories and eventually I get around to writing the journal entry itself. I used to be really good at writing them before the next trip. I’ve slacked the past two years.

But as for how I write those entries, well, I’ll save that look into my mind for Tuesday’s post.